The UK media landscape in 2022: traditional press under strain, digital media in quest of effective models

A new analysis of media pluralism in the United Kingdom has been published after the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom was commissioned by the UK’s communications regulator, Ofcom, to examine the current state of media pluralism in the country using the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM) tool. The results, together with a comparative report that contextualises the UK findings against other countries in Europe, delivers a rich and comprehensive understanding of media pluralism in the UK.

As in other countries, the digital transition has created new risks while presenting opportunities to address them. The authors Damian Tambini and Julia Madrazo remark: “The transition challenges settled social institutions and therefore wider societal awareness and trust but there are also new entrepreneurs for repairing standards and trust, such as fact-checkers and citizen media”.

The countries selected for the comparative analysis were Germany, France, Italy, and Spain because despite varying in several important respects, they are all relatively advanced democracies that share a similar economic and demographic profile. Moreover, the five comprise the most sizable populations in Europe.

Based on the Media Pluralism Monitor, this country report examines risks to media pluralism in four main thematic areas: Fundamental Protection, Market Plurality, Political Independence, and Social Inclusiveness. In the Fundamental Protection area, the UK scored in the medium risk band. While the basic protections of freedom of expression, independence, and effectiveness of the media are met, there is big room for improvement in the protection of the right to information and the system of self-regulation in journalism remains split and discredited. As a result, the standards and protection for journalists are at significant risk.

Regarding the Market Plurality area, there are major threats that place the UK at a medium risk band as well. These are the absence of media transparency due to the lack of a legal framework with specific provisions; the high media concentration and the bad shape of media viability, with the number of journalists in the UK decreasing over the past year driven by layoffs and cost-cutting initiatives.

As for political independence (which falls in the same risk band as the first two areas), the main concerns relate to the editorial autonomy and independence of public service media.

Finally, the area of social inclusiveness marks the lowest risk to media pluralism in the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, the share of women on public service media boards has yet to reach parity, and local and community media need to go beyond the current forms of support in order to stop the decline of local journalism. Even if media literacy is above average for European populations, it still has room for growth given that it is only present to a limited extent on educational curriculums.

You can access the UK’s MPM results and its recommendations by following this link.
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